MID North Coast Hockey League officials will look to consolidate the competition next year instead of expanding, according to Manning competition co-ordinator Tony Lewis.
The league came into play last year and is made up of men's and women's division one sides from the Manning and Port Macquarie-Hastings associations. Six sides - three from both association - make up both divisions.
There were suggestions last year that Coffs Harbour could be eventually invited to enter sides in the league. However, Mr Lewis believes this is unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future.
"I think we're better off consolidating the competition,'' he said.
"We picked up a sixth side for the men this year and that's great and the feedback we're getting from the players has all been positive.
"But I don't think we want expansion for the sake of it. We're better off making sure the clubs we have involved are stable and competitive.''
Manning and Hastings men's sides had previously played in a Mid North Coast Super League that was dominated by Manning teams.
The Super League collapsed in 2019, with the associations reverting to division one men's and women's domestic competitions before the hockey league concept was revived in 2021.
Mr Lewis said the improvement in the standard of the Port Macquarie-Hastings clubs in the past two seasons has been one of the features.
While Manning clubs Tigers (women) and Sharks (men) are the minor premiers, two Port sides will play in the men's elimination game on Saturday at Port. Sharks and Camden Haven will playoff to be Tigers' opponents in the women's game.
Grand finals will be in Taree on Saturday, August 20.
"The university in Port has obviously been beneficial to hockey in that area,'' Lewis said.
"The Hastings clubs have greater depth than we do at the moment. That's something that has been discussed at (Manning) association level and we're looking at ways to address this.''
Mr Lewis revealed that one more Manning club is looking to enter the league in 2023.
"The club has a great hockey tradition and strong juniors. The association will look to do everything we can to assist them,'' he said.
However, Mr Lewis isn't a fan of extending an invitation to Coffs Harbour clubs.
"For our teams I think that would mean too much travel. Hockey is a costly sport and we don't want to add to those costs,'' he said.
He added that a number of Manning division one players also link with Newcastle premier league clubs, where matches are on Sundays.
"If we increase the travel in our competition we'd risk losing them if they had to make a choice between staying here or playing in Newcastle,'' he said.
However, he will suggest the formation of a State League-type competition between Manning, Hastings, Coffs Harbour and even Grafton associations. This would be for representative teams.
"Each association could host one round and we'd space the rounds out during the season. The winner could be decided by first-past-the-post or with the top two teams playing off,'' he said.
Mr Lewis said this could incorporate men's, women's and junior grades.
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